(… continued from here):
My next opportunity to take a class with this professor was in the fall of 2004. The title of the course read “Prophetical Books of the Old Testament”.
For many weeks the class proceeded quite predictably. There were reading and writing assignments, and wonderful class discussions about historical and contextual criticisms of the text. I remember spending many enjoyable moments discussing the Hebrew-to-English-to-modern English problems of translation. For a big ole Bible nerd like me, this was all perfectly sublime.
One day, while reading through the book of Ezekiel, our professor asked the class to participate in an out-loud reading exercise. I felt transported back to elementary school as I listened to others read from the text, paying extra attention to each word, in order to be ready to do my part when the moment arrived. Before I had the opportunity to impress my peers with my spoken word skills, someone read the following verse aloud:
“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”
Immediately after the last syllable of the last word in that verse was spoken by my classmate, my professor interrupted. “Wait, wait, wait a minute”, he said.
“Could everyone please take out your pens?”, he asked. “Pens, not pencils. We should be sure to make this permanent”, he added.
He didn’t speak again until every single person’s pen was poised over their new, expensive, annotated Old Testament textbooks.
“Alright then, if you would please start crossing out all of the words following ‘the sins of Sodom were…’”.
No one moved.
“Go on. Put your pens through the words ‘She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed, unconcerned, etc., all the way to the end of that sentence”.
Some people tentatively appeared to draw lines through the words.
“And then write in the word ‘HOMOSEXUALITY’”.
No one moved again. (Thank God).
“I mean, that’s what I heard in church, didn’t you?”, my professor said with the slightest, almost imperceptible hint of mischief in his voice.
“I mean, God’s good but he’s not always right, right?”. The mischievous tone was a bit more obvious.
A few people put down their pens.
“I mean, sometimes I’m arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned. I’ve certainly ignored the poor and the needy at times”, he confessed while pointing his finger into the center of his chest with each confession. “But – and this is important – I am not a homosexual”. As he said those last five words, “I”, “am”, “not”, “a”, “homosexual”, he reached out his arm and began to deliberately shake the same finger, previously pointed inwards at himself, outward and away from himself.
After a moment or so of stunned silence, someone sitting a few chairs to my left let out a slow, self-recriminating whistle.
I felt like scales had fallen from my eyes.
If there was a lengthy class discussion that followed this exercise, I don’t remember the details of that interaction now. However, I do know that ever since that moment I have become incapable of seeing the church’s decision to police other peoples’ sexuality as anything other than a smoke screen. A smoke screen designed – specifically – to deflect attention from the ugliness of our indifference towards the suffering of others.
** For a bit more on this topic: click here.